We are considering ways to practice the Spiritual Discipline of Bible intake. In this post, building upon the previous post, we take another look at the activity of reading the Word. In our last post, I wrote about the purpose or design of Bible reading. We read the Bible to meet with a Person: Jesus Christ. We can behold Christ as the Spirit of God enables us to see Him through the reading of God’s Word. In this sense, reading is seeing.
Therefore, reading God’s Word is of utmost importance for those of us who desire to behold and become like Christ. We must not leave this discipline to chance. We must be intentional about reading the Bible. Dr. Donald Whitney in his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, gives three practical suggestions for consistent success in Bible reading. The first two suggestions are straightforward: find the time, and have a plan. We will need to discipline ourselves to find a time. Assistance in being disciplined to read can come from having a plan. There are many pre-arranged plans or you can develop you own. Select a plan that you can reasonably accomplish in the time frame that you have chosen to complete the plan.
The third practical suggestion that Whitney gives to us concerns how we should read. We should read thoughtfully and reflectively. I want to submit to us that one of the best ways to accomplish thoughtful, reflective reading is to ask questions as you read. To counter the danger of reading and not being able to remember a single thing, consider looking for answers to questions as you read. A few “standard” questions that I bring to texts are:
- How does this passage point me to the Gospel?
- What truth does this passage teach me about God and/or man? What lies about God and/or man does it counter?
- How must my life (behavior, words, emotions, thoughts, etc.) change in light of this truth? What must I renounce and stop? What must I practice?
- What trials am I facing? What physical pain or persecution for righteousness, what distress or lack of, what temptation or consequence of sin am I experiencing that I might apply the Word of God to it and find God and His goodness in my midst?
Not every question can be as easily answered from every text, but any particular text can present answers to at least one of the above kinds of questions. The point simply is to think deeply about what we read. When we read looking for an answer, we read more carefully. Or maybe you would like to come up with a different kind of question. No problem! For instance, if you choose to do a repeated reading through the four Gospels for a quarter of the year you can customize your questions. Reading through the Gospels you might ask the two following specific questions: (1) What does Christ want me to believe about Him in this Gospel reading? (2) How does Christ want me to imitate Him from this Gospel reading? The more we think carefully about our Bible readings the more we are in a posture to grow in our likeness of Christ. The Holy Spirit uses thoughtful beholding to transform us.